Louis Arena, 32, firefighter who chose dangerous job



Sunday, September 16, 2001
By DIANA YATES
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER


From the time he was a toddler, Louis Arena exhibited the generous spirit that endeared him to friends and family and ultimately cost him his life.

One day, when he was three years old, his sister, JoAnn Arena-Eisinger, remembered, she complained that she was hungry. So Arena"Louie" set out to find her something to eat.

"He walked down to the A&P, got a loaf of bread and walked out with it," she said. No one stopped him, and he brought it back home for her.

That was what her brother was like, she said.

"You said you needed something. You got it."

Arena is one of several firefighters from Ladder 5, Manhattan, who disappeared into the rubble Tuesday while working to save countless others. His death, which was confirmed yesterday, occurred as he climbed the stairs in the North Tower of the World Trade Center looking for anyone who needed help.

"He was running up the stairs when other people were running down," said his wife of six years, Wanda (Reynolds) Arena. "It's so typical of him. He was always helping people. He was not concerned about himself."

Arena was born in Besonhurst, Brooklyn, and his family moved to Heartland Village when he was four.

He was a graduate of St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, Huguenot, and was a parishioner of St. Patrick's R.C. Church, Richmond.

A firefighter for six years, Arena first served at Ladder 5 before working out of Ladder 225 in East New York and Engine Company 309 in Brooklyn. He returned to Ladder 5 about two years ago.

"He was very dedicated to his [fire] house and loved everybody there," said Ms. Arena. "It was his second home."

An Emergency Medical Service technician, Ms. Arena worked a full shift Tuesday in Manhattan after the disaster, keeping a watchful eye out for her husband.

"I knew he was with such a wonderful team," she said. "They were smart and they were strong and I really thought they were going to make it."

Ms. Arena said her husband was a gourmet cook who also could build or repair anything. He did countless favors for family and friends, even scheduling his days off so that he could help others.

He also loved spending time with his children, Nina, 4, and Joseph, 3.

"He was very protective of everyone," said Ms. Arena-Eisinger, "especially his kids."

He and his wife regularly ran in various memorial races for fallen firefighters and police.

In addition to his wife, his sister and his children, surviving are his parents, Joseph and Jenny Arena; and three brothers, Frank, Salvatore and Anthony.